Arizona GOP lawmakers backing Ducey’s teacher raise, no more

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Thousands march in the street to the Arizona Capitol for higher teacher pay and school funding Thursday, April 26, 2018, in Phoenix. (Source: AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Thousands march in the street to the Arizona Capitol for higher teacher pay and school funding Thursday, April 26, 2018, in Phoenix. (Source: AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

A key Arizona legislative leader said Thursday that majority Republicans in the Arizona House have agreed to support Gov. Doug Ducey’s plan for a 20 percent teacher pay raise by 2020, a key breakthrough in ongoing budget talks that mainly ignores demands from tens of thousands of striking educators.

Rep. David Livingston, chair of the House Appropriations Committee, said the deal should result in a formal budget plan next week. His and his Senate counterpart, John Kavanagh, said there are still details to work out on an overall budget deal but the broad outlines are in place.

[SLIDESHOW: Tens of thousands of teachers march for pay raise]

The pay raise proposed by the Republican governor and agreed to by House and Senate negotiators does not address four other funding areas teachers are demanding to change. But Livingston said he believes striking teachers will go back to the classroom when they see the deal addresses their No. 1 concern: teacher pay.

[INFOGRAPHIC: How AZ teacher pay compares to other states]

[SPECIAL SECTION: Arizona politics]

“I think when they see that we have an agreement and they will get a 20 percent raise almost all of the teachers will be back in the schools teaching on Monday,” Livingston said.

But many of the more than 50,000 educators and supporters who Thursday and rallied at the Capitol said the governor’s officer falls flat.

[READ MORE: 50,000 AZ teachers & supporters march, rally in historic strike]

Middle school art teacher Clara Corcoran drove to Phoenix from Tucson with her colleagues and said she wasn’t satisfied with Ducey’s proposal for a 20 percent raise because it doesn’t aid support staff or teachers’ aides — or increase funding for classroom needs.

[RELATED: Diane Douglas asking teachers to return to the classroom amid walkouts]

“He basically ticked off the first demand and ignored everything else we asked for,” she said.

Meanwhile, Ducey made the rounds of television and radio news shows, saying he was sticking with his 20 percent pay raise and a partial restoration of nearly $400 million in capital funding cut during following Great Recession.

[RELATED: Governor to Arizonans: Tell your legislators to vote for proposed teacher pay raise]

“We’re going to do everything we can, we’re going to get this 20 percent pay increase, we’re going to get $100 million for support staff and other needs,” he said on KTAR radio. “And then if there’s still a teacher strike I don’t think that will make sense to parents, I don’t think that will make sense to kids.”

[RELATED: Arizona school districts release plans for teacher walkout]

The broad outlines of the House deal include Ducey’s OK of spending requests from members on other items and changes to the state tax code so people don’t see a tax increase because of the federal tax overhaul, Livingston said.

[SPECIAL SECTION: Arizona schools in crisis]

The federal tax cut law signed by President Donald Trump in December was expected to boost tax revenue for Arizona by at least $130 million in the coming budget year and possibly as much as $250 million, according to Legislature’s budget analysts and the state Department of Revenue. Republicans saw that as a tax increase, even though those paying more would mainly see much bigger cuts to their federal taxes.

[RELATED: 2 district leaders weigh in on education funding crisis and Gov. Ducey's plan]

“It is a tax increase if we don’t go net neutral,” Livingston said. “Net neutral is the plan. Now we just have to work out the final details, and have the budget worked out next week hopefully.”

Senate Republicans have been on board with the governor’s plan all week, but Kavanagh would not say there was a formal budget agreement with the House and governor.

[RELATED: Budget, tax cuts led teachers to strike]

“I think there’s agreement on general concepts, but we haven’t worked out the details,” he said. “So I wouldn’t call that a deal.”

Teachers plan to rally at the Capitol again on Friday.

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